Okay, dog fleas are my own personal worst nightmare - they are just disgusting! If you've ever had a bad infestation, I think you'll agree with me.
You're sitting on your couch, and out of the corner of your eye you see a little black speck fly through the air -- "Oh my goodness, my dog has fleas" you scream.
As you can probably tell, I speak from too much experience when it comes to fleas on dogs. My family farm had an extremely bad flea infestation one year, and I have never gotten over it.
Depending on where you live (the climate) can determine how bad a problem you have with these nasty critters. I happen to live in the Pacific Northwest, and our winters are rarely bad enough to kill them off.
The ideal climate conditions for fleas is warm and relatively humid. They prefer temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and around 70% humidity.
Dog fleas are very tiny, but not so much that they can't be seen by the naked eye.
However, flea pictures looked at through a microscope shows you exactly what they look like.
As you can see in the magnified image to the right, the closer you look, the ickier they are :0)
There are thousand's of different species of fleas around the world, and roughly 200 found in the U.S.
The type of flea in this picture is actually called the "cat flea", but despite it's name, it's the most common flea found on dogs.
So, for the purposes of this article I'll refer to them as dog fleas :0)
There's a good reason why fleas are hard to get rid of - a female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day!
The flea life cycle consists of 4 parts, which are:
In order to reproduce, fleas have to have a blood supply -- meaning they have to live on and suck your dogs blood (or yours too).
So, a female flea drinks blood and then she lays eggs on your dog.
The eggs tend to fall off of your dog onto other areas, like where he sleeps.
The eggs then start hatching anywhere between 2 days and 2 weeks.
Once the eggs hatch into the larva stage, they can take from a week to several months to develop into the Pupa stage. It then takes between 5 to 14 days for an adult flea to come out of the pupa.
. . . But, they can also stay in the pupa stage for longer while waiting for a meal (your dog's blood to suck on).
The most common dog health problems caused by these pesky critters is flea allergy dermatitis, which is basically an allergic reaction to the flea bites.
Flea bites will usually make all dogs itch, especially while their biting. But, many dogs (up to 40%) can be hypersensitive to the fleas saliva and itch uncontrollably.
This allergy is a major cause of hot spots in dogs. Dogs that are allergic will usually gnaw on their bums, right at the base of the tail, but it can spread all over their body if the flea problem isn't treated.
This is a miserable situation for your dog -- if you've ever had a rash of some sort with itching that you just can't stop, then you can relate to what your dog is going through.
The second most common problem caused by dog fleas is tape worms. Fleas ingested (swallowed) by dogs is the number 1 way tape worms are spread to canines.
Basically it's big circle -- a microscopic tape worm egg is passed in the feces of a dog or cat. A flea then eats that egg, and then a dog eats the flea.
The tape worm develops in the dog's stomach and goes through it's lifecycle until it's eggs are then passed through your dog's feces. . .
. . . And the cycle continues :0)
I'm assuming you already know, but hopefully by now it's becoming very apparent why it's important to:
Okay, getting rid of fleas is easier said than done right? They are very resilient little creatures, and if you take into account their life cycle, you can see you're dealing with a lot to kill them off completely.
The number one thing you have to do is clean. . . Then clean some more. It's not enough to just treat your dog, because the eggs tend to fall off of them and into your carpet, onto your couch, and especially onto your dog's bed or other places she likes to hang out.
So, before during and after using any kind of dog flea medication, you should vacuum frequently. And, you should wash your dog's bedding frequently as well.
Fleas are actually killed easily by soapy water, so carefully (try to make sure eggs and larva don't fall off) washing your dog's bedding and any kind of throw rugs, etc. she might lay on in the washing machine with soap will kill them.
Along with continuously cleaning your house, there are also a lot of products to choose from to help kill fleas in their different life cycle stages; In your house, in your yard and on your dog. . . .
. . . Some are more effective than others, and some are much safer than others.
Most of the items above have been used for years, and many of them work quite well to get rid of fleas. But, with some recent research I've done, I had to ask myself a question:
Are we killing our dogs along with the fleas?
Since we can't just ignore a flea infestation, the next question that has to be asked is are there any natural flea remedies that work to kill the fleas, but not harm our dogs or us in the process?
Well, it's my opinion that the answer to both questions is YES. Again, in my opinion we don't hear nearly as much about natural remedies, because the makers of chemical flea solutions are ginormous product and drug companies, with bottomless advertising budgets.
I think that natural products are beginning to gain popularity in all facets of life, and as the popularity growth continues, we will see more and more publicity.
It turns out there are several natural substances that kill fleas, and certain plants, such as peppermint have natural defenses against insects.
Insects like fleas, mosquitoes, ticks and flies have a neuro-transmitter called Octopamine, that controls their nervous system. Humans and dogs don't have this transmitter, so there is no danger.
The possibilities are definitely there, we just have to look for them, and be informed and knowledgable consumers in order to keep ourselves and our dogs healthy, as well as flea free :0)